Pixel Ray Studios plans set to boost Ghanaian film making ecosystem

Front runner: Ghana produces about 600 films per year, the second highest number across Africa behind Nigeria’s tally of more than 2,500 films produced annually. A new studio in the Akwamu-Akosombo enclave (pictured) is aimed to provide world class sound stages for local film production.

Ghana’s film landscape already has some international recognition. Beasts of No Nation, Netflix’s first in-house movie production released in 2015, was filmed in the country. The depiction of child soldiers in an unnamed African civil war was a landmark in the streaming giant’s push into movies and original content production.

Now Ghana’s film ecosystem is set for an even more significant boost. In June, US-based production and infrastructure company Pixel Ray Studios unveiled plans to establish a modern full-service studio complex with 10 sound stages in the west African country. 

Audu Maikori, co-founder and CEO of Pixel Ray Studios, tells fDi that there are not enough “world-class” quality sound stages on the continent to “tell African stories properly” and meet growing demand for local content production.

“Nollywood [a nickname for the Nigerian film industry] is the second most prolific film industry in the world [behind India’s Bollywood], producing even more movies than Hollywood, but in terms of revenues the total market share for African movies represents just 2% of the global film industry,” he says, noting that the problem is “quality not quantity”, with these productions mostly having little financing and distribution.

“There are plenty of stories, but not enough are told in the quality, context and nuances of African people and black people around the world,” he says. “These studios will serve as a place where you can come in, tell your story, access great labour and also impact the economy.”

Favourable framework

Ghana has been on a big push to develop its film industry. In April 2021, the president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo launched a programme to boost

local film production. 

“We are working to position Ghana as a film hub and also a shooting destination,” says Juliet Yaa Asantewa Asante, the CEO of the National Film Authority (NFA) of Ghana, which was set up in 2019 to regulate and promote the country’s film ecosystem. 

The president’s programme aims to attract investment, distribution and marketing for Ghanaian film projects. About 40% of the targeted $25m funding has been attracted so far, according to the NFA of Ghana. 

Unesco estimates that Ghana pumps out about 600 films per year, the second-highest number across Africa behind its neighbour, Nigeria.

After scouting different markets across Africa, Mr Maikori says Ghana was the “place of choice” for the studios due to political will, the country’s relative safety, favourable business climate (amongst the best ones in west Africa, according to the 2020 World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report) and ongoing efforts to shape regulation for the industry.

The NFA is working closely with several different Ghanaian ministries on policies to attract international production, including making it easier for international staff to get visas and bringing in a new tax incentive. 

While it is “difficult to have a tax-break conversation”, Ms Asante expects the incentive to be finalised by the end of 2022.

“We are opening an entirely new revenue stream for the country, which gives the opportunity to create massive employment for young people,” she says. The Pixel Ray Studios project is expected to create 10,000 jobs once fully operational.

Suitable site

The initial build-out for the project will have five sound stages accompanied by a backlot and will cost an estimated $65m. These stages are expected to be up and running 24 months after construction begins.

Mr Maikori says “the biggest hurdle” has been finding a site big enough to accommodate the project. The final complex will have 10 sound stages and supporting infrastructure, such as accommodation, training facilities and retail sites.

The Akwamu-Akosombo enclave, which is about a 90-minute drive from the capital Accra, has been decided as the final area for the project, according to Ms Asante.

“The location is ideal in many ways,” she says, noting the local transport links, utilities infrastructure and mixed scenery of mountains and forests.

For Mr Maikori, this Ghanaian studio complex will cater to both international and pan-African audiences as demand for content and streaming services grows across the continent.

“Africa is the next destination,” he says. “We are making that investment to create value, jobs and tell the best stories possible.”

This article has been amended since original publication to reflect that the Ghanaian government’s programme to boost film production has attracted about 40% of its target of $25m.

This article first appeared in the August/September 2022 print edition of fDi Intelligence. View a digital edition of the magazine here.